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Hanoi is the capital with a population of 7.8 million, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) with a population of 11.2 million is the largest city and business centre of the country. Vietnam is a rapidly modernizing country thanks to its industrious population. Vietnam, once a forbidden country for tourists, now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors (with numbers increasing) every year. Rich culture, strong tradition, and a patriotic people characterize this fascinating country. Images abound, but to most people Vietnam is the rumble of a million motorbikes, a patchwork of emerald-green rice paddies, throngs of women in conical hats, a long idyllic coastline and superb food!

AIRPORT TAX

Airport departure tax for international and domestic flights is included in the airfare.

CLIMATE

Vietnam stretches over 1,800 km from north to south and its topography varies from coastal plain to mountain ranges; therefore weather patterns in the principle cities are very different.

North: Winter lasts from November to April, with temperatures averaging 10 C – 16 C and during January – March fog and drizzle.

Summer begins in May and lasts until October, with an average temperature of 30 C, heavy rainfall and the occasional violent typhoon.

Centre: Central Vietnam experiences a transitional climate, with heavy rain falls between November and December and dry, hot summer months.

South: Temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year; 25 C – 30 C. Seasons are determined by the rains – the dry season runs from November to April and the wet season from May to October. The hottest period is March and April. Typhoons are quite common in coastal areas between July and November.

Highland areas: In the hill resorts of Dalat (1,500 m), Buon Ma Thuot and Sapa, nights are cool throughout the year, and in the winter months, during October to March, it can be distinctly chilly with temperatures falling to 0 C, and even during the hottest months of March and April the temperature rarely exceeds 26 C.

CLOTHING

Generally we recommend bringing light loose fitting cotton clothes for the warmer months and for Southern Vietnam. If travelling to the north some form of layering is required as Hanoi can experience wide temperature changes from one day to the next. During the winter months in the north and for travelling to the mountains it is imperative to bring warm clothing. An umbrella is definitely useful during the rainy periods.

Formal style clothing is not required. A sarong with its multi uses is a very useful item to bring.

Laundry facilities are widely available and quick.

When visiting a temple or pagoda, you should wear long trousers and dress respectfully.

CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE

The local currency is the Dong (abbreviated "d" or VND). Bank notes are 1000d, 2,000d, 5,000d, 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d, 100,000d & 500,000d. No coins.

The exchange rate (as of December 2017) is approximately Dong 22.600 to one US Dollar.

Money and travellers’ cheques, particularly US Dollars, can be exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized money-exchangers. It is advisable to carry US Dollar bills in small denominations.

Credit cards are generally only accepted in major hotels, and in some up-market shops and restaurants in major cities.

ATM facilities are available in all major cities.

CUSTOMS AND FORMALITIES

All visitors to Vietnam must fill in declaration forms and show their luggage to customs officials on request.

Visitors can bring with them unlimited amounts of foreign currency, objects made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or gold, all of which must be declared in detail on the customs forms. Commercial video films and printed materials that are considered offensive are normally confiscated and sent to the Ministry of Culture for inspection.

Goods prohibited importing: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, debauched and reactionary products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with negative impacts on the dignity education, social security and safety, cigarettes beyond the stipulated quantity, etc.

Goods prohibited exporting: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, rare and precious animals and plants, documents related to the national security, etc.

Duty free is limited to 1.5 litres above 22% and 2 litres below 22% per person plus 400 cigarettes per person.

There is a declaration limit for foreign currency of USD 7,000.

ELECTRICITY

220 volts AC, 50 cycles; Two-pin plug sockets require an adapter, which is available from Housekeeping at most hotels.

FLIGHTS DOMESTIC

Any flight in your itinerary is in economy class, unless specified otherwise. Flight times quoted are local and subject to change. Domestic flights require a check-in 1 hour prior to the flight departure.

Vietnam Airlines has frequent flight time changes and cancellations often occur at short notice even after confirmations for a flight have been received.

Carry-on luggage is limited to one piece plus a camera. All “carry-on” hand luggage must have luggage tags which are provided by the airlines when passengers check in at the airports for their flights. Security regulations at airports are strict. Appropriate announcements may or may not be made for this procedure. In economy class air travel baggage allowance is 20kg per person. Excess baggage may be subject to overweight charges by the airline. VIP TOUR ASIA.,JSC Vietnam cannot be held responsible for any loss or damage to passenger’s belongings.

Please retain your luggage tag as you will be required to show this against your suitcase on arrival before being allowed to exit the airport.

FLIGHTS INTERNATIONAL

Vietnam has three International Airports: Hanoi / Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh City / Tan Son Nhat and Danang / Danang Airport. There are numerous direct flights from and to Vietnam operated by various international airlines.

International flights require a check-in 2 hours prior to the flight departure.

Please retain your luggage tag as you will be required to show this against your suitcase on arrival before being allowed to exit the airport.

FOOD

Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Cooking is seen as an art and some Vietnamese dishes have achieved international fame, including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls (nem ran), and fish balls (cha ca). In addition to Vietnamese food, the larger hotels also serve a wide variety of Continental and Chinese cuisine. In the smaller cities, where hotels only have one restaurant, ordering a-la-carte may involve a slight wait. Consequently, it is advised that if in a rush, you take advantage of the large and diverse buffets available at these hotels to minimize any delay.

Never drink water from the hotel tap, no matter what category of hotel you are staying in. Bottled mineral water is available at all hotels throughout Vietnam.  Do not have any ice in your drinks as this is often made from water that has not been purified.

Joining in a half or full day cooking class is a fun and unique way to become more acquainted with Vietnamese cuisine. Please see our excursions in Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City for detailed information about cooking classes.

Vietnam has some excellent and atmospheric restaurants. Please refer to our list of restaurant recommendations or contact your local tour guide for more suggestions.

GENERAL ADVICE

Try to avoid travelling during Tet (Lunar New Year) as this is a family-orientated holiday where businesses and shops close for almost a week.

Hanoi – staying in the old town is recommended, but hotels are narrow and usually only have 1 window (either the front or back of the room). Front windows have a view, but can be noisy whereas the back windows often are within the hotel but quieter. Many elevators are narrow hence expect waiting. Smaller hotels have restaurants on top floors (elevator stops one floor below) so it involves walking up, but there are great views from the top.

An inescapable fact is the contact noise, mainly of motorcycles. A good tip is to escape into a café for some quiet relief at intervals to recharge your batteries. The Vietnamese are early risers and so traffic noise starts early around 5:00 hrs onwards and you may be woken up by the crackle of a loudspeaker as the Voice of Vietnam starts up with music and rhetoric. For light sleepers ear-plugs are useful to bring!

Crossing the road is an art – the trick is to walk steadily and slowly across the road in the same direction and the motorcycles and bicycles will weave around you. Do not run or make sudden movements.

When hiring a motorcycle or jet-ski there is no insurance coverage and the hirer is personally liable for any damages or accidents. When exploring on your own, it is not advisable to take a motor bike taxi as these are often involved in accidents.

The country has been hurtled in a relatively short time from an underdeveloped Communism country into its present dynamic state and so a flexible approach, humour and patience will ensure a more enjoyable holiday.

For non-smokers request rooms on non-smoking floors rooms, where available.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

No actual vaccinations are officially required. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against polio, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B and Malaria.

Those visitors taking medicine for certain conditions such as diabetes or heart problems should make sure that they carry these medications in their hand luggage at all times in case the main luggage should be delayed.

The sun is strong throughout the year so proper care against sunburn and dehydration must be constantly taken. Vietnam is a tropical country so insect repellent is essential. It is recommended that all travellers take out comprehensive Personal Travel Insurance to cover personal expenses, in case of accident, illness, etc.

INTERNET

Vietnam joined the global computer age and internet-service providers are currently operating in most of the cities. You can access the internet through hotels, cyber cafés & Internet/Computer Service Centres. Following are internet addresses with relevant information on Vietnam:

Vietnam Development Gateway

 www.vietnamgateway.org

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 www.mofa.gov.vn/en

Vietnam News

 www.vietnamnews.com.vn

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism

 www.vietnamtourism.com

Vietnam Airlines

 www.vietnamairlines.com

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Learning foreign languages, particularly English, is currently popular amongst young people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang and other cities. Tourist guides are available for English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian speakers.

LOCAL TIME & WORKING HOURS

Local time is GMT + 7 hours.

Governmental agencies work Monday to Friday from 7:30 hrs to 16:30 hrs (excluding one-hour lunch) and are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 7:30 hrs or 8:00 to 11:30 hrs and from 13:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs and are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Private shops are open from 8:00 or 8:30 hrs to 21:00 or 23:00 hrs. During the Lunar New Year shops may be closed for several days before and after as well as during the festive holidays, depending on recommendations made by a fortune teller.

OFFICIAL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

01 JAN ,International New Year

01-03 JAN (lunar calendar), Lunar New Year (TET)

10 MAR (lunar calendar), Hung King Festival

30 APR, Liberation Day

01 MAY, Labour Day

02 SEP, National Day

OVERLAND TRAVEL

The road system in Vietnam is reasonable in the main urban cities. The drives through the countryside can be a wonderful sightseeing experience. However, it must be noted that the roads are narrow and some may be poorly paved when outside the main cities, and as a consequence the drives can be rough and difficult at times. Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. Drivers are very unlikely to speak any English.

The journey timings described in your itinerary are based on the usual amount of time a particular journey will take. However, please appreciate that not all roads can be checked for their condition throughout the year.

Most cars used are manufactured locally by Toyota, Honda and Ford and are for the most part comfortable and ideally suited to local roads. Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle, under any conditions. There is ample opportunity to smoke during photographic, luncheon and sightseeing stops.

Border crossing into Vietnam is possible from China, Laos and Cambodia. Regulations for crossing overland borders can change at short notice. Tourists can pass borders at the following checkpoints:

Vietnam side /China side

Huu Nghi (Lang Son province) / Pinxiang (Guangxi province)

Lao Cai (Lao Cai province) / Hekou (Yunnan province)

Mong Cai (Quang Ninh province) / Dongxin (Guangxi province)

From Laos: Vietnam side / Laos side

Tay Trang (west of Dien Bien Phu valley) / Muang Mai - Phongsaly Province

Na Meo (Thanh Hoa province) / Nam Sooy - Huaphanh Province

Nam Can (Nghe An province) / Nam Khan - Xieng Khouang Province

Cau Treo (Ha Tinh province) / Nam Pao - Bolikhamxay Province

Cha Lo (Quang Binh province) / Naphao / Khammouane Province

Lao Bao (Quang Tri province) / Lao Bao - Savannakhet Province

Bo Y (Kon Tum province) / A Ta Pu - A Ta Pu Province

From Cambodia: Vietnam side / Cambodia side

Moc Bai (Tay Ninh province) / Bavet (Svay Reang province)

Tinh Bien (An Giang province) / Phnom Den (Takeo province)

Xa Mat (Tay Ninh province) / Trapeang Plong (Kampong Cham province

Vinh Xuong - by Boat (Chau Doc province) / Kaom Samnoar (Kandal province)

When travelling by train, please be prepared for the fact that schedule changes occur frequently and sometimes without prior notification.

PASSPORT AND VISAS

Travellers to Vietnam are required to hold a passport valid for at least six (06) months beyond the completion of their visit and must contain a valid visa. If tourist visas are to be obtained via VIP TOUR ASIA.,JSC Vietnam, the following personal data must be supplied to us at least 2 (two) weeks before travel to Vietnam:

Full name as per passport

Passport number, date of issue and expiry date

Date and place of birth

Occupation and nationality

City of where visa will be issued

Visas are usually issued by the Vietnamese Embassy in the passengers’ home country (against the visa’s approval number), which require the original passport, and two (02) photos and for three (03) full working days in order to issue a visa stamp.

Visas can also be obtained upon arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang airports, in which case the stamping fee will be quoted separately. Apart from required details above we further need arrival/departure date and flight information. VIP TOUR ASIA.,JSC Vietnam will send a confirmation letter to show to airport staff at the departing airport, confirming that clients will get the visa on arrival. Visas can only be requested via VIP TOUR ASIA.,JSC Vietnam in connection with the booking of travel arrangements to Vietnam. The visa upon arrival requires two (02) passport photos.

Visa exemption:

Not more than 30 days: for citizens of Asian Nationals such as Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand (except Myanmar & Cambodia).

Not more than 15 days: for citizens of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden. French citizens holding valid diplomatic passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for up three (03) months at one time or on several visits within six (06) months since their first immigration dates.

Citizens of Chile holding valid diplomatic or official passports are exempted from entry transit visas and are allowed to stay for up 60 days on each visit.

Hotels might reserve the right to keep travel documents overnight at the reception for registration purpose.

POST AND COMMUNICATIONS

A regular international post service is available. In addition Express Mail Service (EMS) is available to more than 50 countries worldwide with a delivery time of 2 to 10 days.

Vietnam has high international telephone charges. It is important to check the exact amount with the hotel before making a call, as hotel surcharges are often imposed.

VOIP calls which help reduce call charges (for most of international calls from any destination within Vietnam and for domestic calls between the main cities of the country) are now available as well pre-paid internet & mobile cards can be bought in the major cities.

SECURITY

Vietnam is generally a safe country. However some simple common sense precautions with possessions lessen the chances of becoming a victim to petty theft. Carry your handbag or rucksack to the front of you and be particularly aware that handbag snatches / thefts from motorbikes occur especially in the larger cities and crowds.

It is advised to keep luggage locked while travelling, whether it is stored in the hold of a car or bus, during flights or train journeys. Virtually all hotels have safe deposit boxes.

The Vietnamese are a shrewd people and whereas certainly not everyone you meet is out to cheat you, it is well worth being on the alert!

SHOPPING

Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from woodenwares such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings, bowls and chopsticks, bamboo screens and stone tea sets. Woven tapestries, “tho cam” handbags and other handicraft are produced by the traditional skills of the women of ethnic minorities in such rural regions in the north as Sapa, Mai Chau and Dien Bien. When shopping please consider individual customs and import regulations of your own country as well as regulations regarding the protection of species.

SIGHTSEEING

Compared to some of its neighbours, Vietnam has less monuments and cultural sights and therefore the joy of seeing the country is discovering its people, lifestyle and cuisine. Exploring a small area on foot, cyclo or bicycle can be extremely rewarding and photogenic.

If you decide to leave the hotel and go out on your own, there are various means of transport that you may like to take such as taxis or “cyclos”. If taking a taxi or “cyclo”, insist on the meter being switched on before you begin your journey. Due to an effort to stop pollution, most “cyclos” are pedaled as opposed to motor. It is suggested that you carry the name of your destination or hotel written in local language in the event your driver does not understand English. The staff at your hotel can assist you in this regard.

Due to its Communist past and recent emergence as a tourist destination, the standards of tour guides in Vietnam can vary from the young dynamic and eager to embrace western ideas to the more rigid, staid communist approach.

Please note that the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi is closed every Monday and Friday and for the full duration of two months in autumn, usually in October and November. Museums are closed on Mondays and partly on Fridays.

TIPPING

Tipping is widely practiced and expected; however it should be given for good service.

TRAVELLED WITH US?

If you wish to give us some feedback about your holiday in Vietnam, please visit our website www.viptourasia.com

Thank you in advance for your valuable thoughts and time. Your feedback will surely help us to continuously improve our products and services.

10 MUST DO’S

Watch a traditional water puppet performance.

Savour a bowl of Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) or Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) at a street side noodle stall. To complete the breakfast, enjoy a strong Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.

Order tailor-made clothes from the local tailor shop (Our recommendation of local tailors are listed under shopping.)

Enjoy a cyclo ride through the Old Quarter of Hanoi, around Hue’s Imperial Citadel, through Hoi An’s Ancient Town, in Nha Trang, Phan Thiet or through the French Quarter of old Saigon. (this suggestion is supposed to close due to the mass traffic infrastructure after 2020)

Sleep out on the deck aboard a wooden junk in Ha Long Bay.

Rejuvenate during a relaxing two hour traditional Vietnamese massage.

Experience a home stay in the ethnic minority villages in the north or in the Mekong Delta’s riverside orchards.

Witness the full moon festivities in the ancient town of Hoi An.

Take a scenic boat along Hue’s Perfume River, admiring the grandeur of the Royal Mausoleums.

Test your bargaining skills and set out for shopping at Saigon’s Benh Thanh market.

10 DON’TS

Do not drink tap water and avoid ice cubes, if you have a sensitive stomach.

When visiting a temple or pagoda, wear long trousers and dress respectfully.

Leave your passport and valuables in the hotel safe deposit box before heading out into town, especially on a night out or when going to the beach.

When crossing the road, walk steadily and slowly in the same direction, always looking to the left and right. Do not run or make sudden movements.

Always ask permission first before taking photographs of people, especially in minority areas and border control zones.

Try not to loose face in public. Hold your temper and put on the biggest smile you have.

Do not offer money to begging children or minority people. Donate or even better volunteer at a local charity instead. When travelling in remote areas, offer small gifts, such as pens, paper, soap and other useful utensils.

Sample local food, but patronize only those food stalls which are busy with locals.

Try not to compare Vietnam to other Asian countries. Vietnam has its own identity, culture and history. The Vietnamese are extremely proud of their heritage.

Do not go naked or topless on beaches or in the water. Culturally, this is a big no-no and would be asking for trouble.